Nat Torkington

Nat has chaired the O'Reilly Open Source Convention and other O'Reilly conferences for over a decade. He ran the first web server in New Zealand, co-wrote the best-selling Perl Cookbook, and was one of the founding Radar bloggers. He lives in New Zealand and consults in the Asia-Pacific region.

Four short links: 23 July 2015

Four short links: 23 July 2015

Open Source, State of DevOps, History of Links, and Vote Rings

  1. The Future of Open Source (Allison Randal) — Inexperienced companies can cause a great deal of harm as they blunder around blindly in a collaborative project, throwing resources in ways that ultimately benefit no one, not even themselves. It is in our best interest as a community to actively engage with companies and teach them how to participate effectively, how to succeed at free software and open source. Their success feeds the success of free software and open source, which feeds the self-reinforcing cycle of accelerating software innovation.
  2. Puppet Labs’ State of DevOps Report (PDF) — Westrum’s model gives us the language to define and measure culture. Perhaps most interesting, Westrum’s model also predicts IT performance. This shows that information flow isn’t just essential to safety, it’s also a critical success factor for rapidly building and evolving resilient systems at scale.
  3. Beyond Conversation — tracing the history of the link from Memex to Web.
  4. Detecting Vote Rings in Product Hunt — worth implementing in every system that processes votes. Who are the jerks in a circle?
Comments: 2
Four short links: 22 July 2015

Four short links: 22 July 2015

Smart Headlights, Habitual Speed, AI Authors, and Programming Language Evolution

  1. Ford’s Smart Headlights — spotlights targeted by infra-red, and accumulating knowledge of fixed features to illuminate. Wonder what an attacker can do to it?
  2. Speed as a HabitYou don’t have to be militant about it, just consistently respond that today is better than tomorrow, that right now is better than six hours from now. This is chock full of good advice, and the occasional good story.
  3. Coding Creativity: Copyright and the Artificially Intelligent Author (PDF) — if AI creates cultural works (e.g., DeepDream images), who owns those works? Suggests that “work for hire” doctrine may be the way to answer that in the future. (via Andreas Schou)
  4. Punctuated Equilibrium in the Large-Scale Evolution of Programming Languages (PDF) — Here we study the large-scale historical development of programming languages, which have deeply marked social and technological advances in the last half century. We analyse their historical connections using network theory and reconstructed phylogenetic networks. Using both data analysis and network modeling, it is shown that their evolution is highly uneven, marked by innovation events where new languages are created out of improved combinations of different structural components belonging to previous languages. These radiation events occur in a bursty pattern and are tied to novel technological and social niches. The method can be extrapolated to other systems and consistently captures the major classes of languages and the widespread horizontal design exchanges, revealing a punctuated evolutionary path. (via Jarkko Hietaniemi)
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Four short links: 21 July 2015

Four short links: 21 July 2015

Web Future, GCE vs Amazon, Scammy eBooks, and Container Clusters

  1. Web Design: The First 100 Years (Maciej Ceglowski) — There’s a William Gibson quote that Tim O’Reilly likes to repeat: “the future is here; it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” O’Reilly takes this to mean that if we surround ourselves with the right people, it can give us a sneak peek at coming attractions. I like to interpret this quote differently, as a call to action. Rather than waiting passively for technology to change the world, let’s see how much we can do with what we already have. Let’s reclaim the Web from technologists who tell us that the future they’ve imagined is inevitable, and that our role in it is as consumers.
  2. Comparing Cassandra Write Performance on Google Compute Engine and AWStl;dr – We achieved better Cassandra performance on GCE vs. Amazon, at close to half the cost. Also interesting for how they built the benchmark.
  3. The Scammy Underground World of Kindle eBooksThe biggest issue here isn’t that scammers are raking in cash from low-quality content; it’s that Amazon is allowing this to happen. Publisher brand value is the reliable expectation that buyers have of the book quality. Amazon’s publishing arm is spending the good brand value built by its distribution arm.
  4. Empire a 12-factor-compatible, Docker-based container cluster built on top of Amazon’s robust EC2 Container Service (ECS), complete with a full-featured command line interface. Open source.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 20 July 2015

Four short links: 20 July 2015

Less Spam, Down on Dropdowns, Questioning Provable Security, and Crafting Packets

  1. Spam Under Half of Email (PDF) — Symantec report: There is good news this month on the email-based front of the threat landscape. According to our metrics, the overall spam rate has dropped to 49.7%. This is the first time this rate has fallen below 50% of email for over a decade. The last time Symantec recorded a similar spam rate was clear back in September of 2003.
  2. Dropdowns Should be the UI of Last Resort (Luke Wroblewski) — Well-designed forms make use of the most appropriate input control for each question they ask. Sometimes that’s a stepper, a radio group, or even a dropdown menu. But because they are hard to navigate, hide options by default, don’t support hierarchies, and only enable selection not editing, dropdowns shouldn’t be the first UI control you reach for. In today’s software designs, they often are. So instead, consider other input controls first and save the dropdown as a last resort.
  3. Another Look at Provable SecurityIn our time, one of the dominant paradigms in cryptographic research goes by the name “provable security.” This is the notion that the best (or, some would say, the only) way to have confidence in the security of a cryptographic protocol is to have a mathematically rigorous theorem that establishes some sort of guarantee of security (defined in a suitable way) under certain conditions and given certain assumptions. The purpose of this website is to encourage the emergence of a more skeptical and less credulous attitude toward this notion and to contribute to a process of critical analysis of the positive and negative features of the “provable security” paradigm.
  4. Pig (github) — a Linux packet crafting tool. You can use Pig to test your IDS/IPS among other stuffs.
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Four short links: 17 July 2015

Four short links: 17 July 2015

Smalltalky Web, Arduino Speech, Testing Distributed Systems, and Dataflow for FP

  1. Project Journal: Objects (Ian Bicking) — a view askew at the Web, inspired by Alan Kay’s History of Smalltalk.
  2. Speech Recognition for Arduino (Kickstarter) — for all your creepy toy hacking needs!
  3. Conductor (github) — a framework for testing distributed systems.
  4. Dataflow Syntax for Functional Programming? — two great tastes that will make your head hurt together!
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Four short links: 16 July 2015

Four short links: 16 July 2015

Consumer Exoskeleton, Bitcoin Trends, p2p Sockets, and Plain Government Comms

  1. ReWalk Robotics Exoskeleton — first exoskeleton for the paralyzed to receive regulatory approval; 66 bought so far, 11 with reimbursement from insurance. The software upgrades for the ReWalk 6.0 provide a smoother walking gait (with less of a soldier-like marching step), an easier stopping mechanism, and a much-improved mode for ascending and descending stairs. The user wears a wristwatch-like controller to switch the suit between sit, stand, walk, and stair modes. How long until a cheaper version hits the market, but you don’t always get to control where it takes you if there’s a sale on featuring brands you love? (via IEEE)
  2. Bitcoin Trends in First Half of 201594% increase in monthly transactions over the past year. 47% of Coinbase wallet holders are now from countries outside the U.S.
  3. Socket.io p2pan easy and reliable way to set up a WebRTC connection between peers and communicate using the socket.io-protocol.
  4. 18F Content Guide — communications guide for government content writers that bears in mind the frustrations citizens have with gov-speak websites.
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Four short links: 15 July 2015

Four short links: 15 July 2015

OpeNSAurce, Multimaterial Printing, Functional Javascript, and Outlier Detection

  1. System Integrity Management Platform (Github) — NSA releases security compliance tool for government departments.
  2. 3D-Printed Explosive Jumping Robot Combines Firm and Squishy Parts (IEEE Spectrum) — Different parts of the robot grade over three orders of magnitude from stiff like plastic to squishy like rubber, through the use of nine different layers of 3D printed materials.
  3. Professor Frisby’s Mostly Adequate Guide to Functional Programming — a book on functional programming, using Javascript as the programming language.
  4. Tracking Down Villains — the software and algorithms that Netflix uses to detect outliers in their infrastructure monitoring.
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Four short links: 14 July 2015

Four short links: 14 July 2015

Future of Work, Metrics and Events, High-functioning Dev, and Concept Calendars

  1. What’s the Future of Work (Tim O’Reilly) — Tim’s been exploring how technology is changing what work is and how we build our society around it. New conference coming!
  2. Monitoring 101: Collecting Data — the world-view behind instrumenting modern software is just as interesting as the tools to make it possible.
  3. Building a High-Performance Team: It’s Not Just About Structure — move beyond copying Spotify’s structure and work on your company’s Habits, Values & Culture, and Leaders & Management.
  4. Google Calendar Concept ArtIn the future … your content will be available directly within your calendar.
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Four short links: 13 July 2015

Four short links: 13 July 2015

Improving Estimates, Robot Bother, Robotics Nations, and Potential Futures of Work

  1. Kalman Filteran algorithm that uses a series of measurements observed over time, containing statistical noise and other inaccuracies, and produces estimates of unknown variables that tend to be more precise than those based on a single measurement alone.
  2. Interview with Bruce SterlingSingapore is like a science fictional society without the fiction. Dubai is like a science fictional society without the science. […] Robots just don’t want to live. They’re inventions, not creatures; they don’t have any appetites or enthusiasms. I don’t think they’d maintain themselves very long without our relentlessly pushing them uphill against their own lifeless entropy. They’re just not entities in the same sense that we are entities; they don’t have much skin in our game. They don’t care and they can’t be bothered. We don’t yet understand how and why we ourselves care and bother, so we’d be hard put to install that capacity inside our robot vacuum cleaners.
  3. Japan’s Robot RevolutionFugitt said Japan’s weakness was in application and deployment of its advanced technologies. “The Japanese expect other countries and people to appreciate their technology, but they’re inwardly focused. If it doesn’t make sense to them, they typically don’t do it,” he said, citing the example of Japanese advanced wheelchairs having 100 kilogram weight limits. […] South Korea could be a threat [to Japan’s lead in robotics] if the chaebol opened up [and shared technologies], but I don’t see it happening. The U.S. will come in and disrupt things; they’ll cause chaos in a particular market and then run away.
  4. A World Without Work (The Atlantic) — In 1962, President John F. Kennedy said, “If men have the talent to invent new machines that put men out of work, they have the talent to put those men back to work.” […] Technology creates some jobs too, but the creative half of creative destruction is easily overstated. Nine out of 10 workers today are in occupations that existed 100 years ago, and just 5% of the jobs generated between 1993 and 2013 came from “high tech” sectors like computing, software, and telecommunications.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 10 July 2015

Four short links: 10 July 2015

King Rat Brain, Emojactions, Dead Eye, and Cloud Value

  1. Computer of Wired-Together Rat Brains — this is ALL THE AMAZING. a Brainet that allows three monkeys connected at the brain to control a virtual arm on screen across three axes. […] Nicolelis said that, essentially, he created a “classic artificial neural network using brains.” In that sense, it’s not artificial at all. (via Slashdot)
  2. Reactions — Slack turns emoji into first-class interactions. Genius!
  3. Pixar’s Scientific MethodIf you turn your head without moving your eyes first, it looks like you’re dead. Now there’s your uncanny valley.
  4. AWS CodePipeline — latest in Amazon’s build-out of cloud tools. Interchangeable commodity platforms regaining lockin via higher-order less-interchangeable tooling for deployment, config, monitoring, etc.
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